Simon Bridges backs NZ Government in Five Eyes' spat with China

The National Party has thrown its support behind the Government dragging China over the coals amid the erosion of democratic norms in Hong Kong. 

Foreign Ministers from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, US and Canada - all members of the Five Eyes intelligence network - on Thursday expressed "serious concern" about the one-party state's recent actions in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was transferred from British to Chinese control in 1997, on the understanding its democratic institutions would stay - known as the one country, two systems principle. But China this year has postponed elections and passed new laws aimed at cracking down on dissent. 

The Five Eyes statement was directed at the former.

"China's action is a clear breach of its international obligations under the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration," the joint statement said in part. "It breaches both China's commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a 'high degree of autonomy', and the right to freedom of speech."

National MP Simon Bridges, who was until recently its spokesperson for foreign affairs, told The AM Show on Friday China has "been a lot more aggressive in recent years and in the last couple of years on a bunch of stuff". 

"I think it's really concerning for the world, actually. I'm glad the Government, with our partners, has stood up on that. We've got to stand up for our values around human rights and things. We can't just sit it out."

China is one of New Zealand's biggest trading partners. Labour MP David Parker, appearing with Bridges on The AM Show, said that won't stop New Zealand speaking out. 

"We've always had an independent foreign policy. Under Winston Peters, Five Eyes partners said something similar in August. The agreement that was agreed between the United Kingdom and China in respect to one country, two systems, we think that's being undermined." 

Simon Bridges.
Simon Bridges. Photo credit: Getty

Bridges agreed.

"They're breaching international law - there's no question about that," he said.

"We want to trade, we want a strong relationship - but there are these areas where our values are different, and we're not going to be shy in telling these folk."

China hit back at the Five Eyes overnight, saying its critics risked being "poked in the eye".